Bike-Share Good Samaritanism


Collin Waldoch Illustration by Tom Bachtell

We linked out to stories about bike-sharing when it was relatively new in New York. This week, an enchanting short note on a peddler of angelic behavior, and a couple examples of people who have pedaled accordingly:

Hacking the Citi Bike Points System

A program offers modest benefits to riders who help rebalance the city’s network of bicycles. One man outdid its expectations.

By Ian Parker

On a recent Monday, Glenn Reinhart, a former salesman of chemicals for the cosmetics industry, and now, in his mid-fifties, a freelance karate instructor with a fair amount of leisure time, took twenty-two rides on Citi Bikes, one after another, and then went out to breakfast in Chelsea. He had arranged to meet Collin Waldoch, who runs Bike Angels, the Citi Bike program that awards points, redeemable for extended membership and other modest benefits (a commemorative pin; a white bike key), to riders who help the company rebalance its network of twelve thousand bikes. Angels earn points for taking bikes from full stations and parking them at empty ones. A ride from one to the other might earn two or three points. When the scheme was launched, this spring, Waldoch thought that someone might, in the course of a year, earn five hundred points. By the fall, Glenn Reinhart had earned nearly eight thousand—twice as many as anyone else—and Waldoch sent him an e-mail and invited him to breakfast.

In the Hollywood Diner, Reinhart protested about an unsteady table. “It’s like a Citi Bike that has something wrong with it—I have to fix it,” he said. He crouched down, then reappeared. “What’s your background, Collin?”

It was eight o’clock. Reinhart had picked up his first Citi Bike at five-thirty, on the corner of West Sixteenth Street and Tenth Avenue, in front of a SoulCycle. “There are people paying to go to SoulCycle; I’m getting paid to cycle!” he said. He rode to Twentieth Street and Eleventh Avenue, briskly walked back, and did the same again, and then again. Later, he moved bikes from Sixteenth Street to a station three blocks south. (A station’s value, in Angel points, is adjusted every half hour, in response to use and anticipated use.) Then he switched to Hudson Street. The weather was damp. “It was beautiful,” he told Waldoch. “It reminded me of the Scottish Highlands. A beautiful light mist.”

Reinhart suggested to Waldoch that “you don’t want guys like me” in the program. “You want the average Joe, who will walk an extra block and make a couple of points, and at the end of the month will have made one or two weeks’ free membership. You want twenty thousand of those.”

“I will say, candidly, that was the original intent,” Waldoch said. But, at some point, “we realized, Oh! There are two fundamentally different groups: the casual user and the Power Angel.”

There are days when Reinhart spends four hours earning points. “If you wanted to take a really philosophical approach, you could see the Citi Bike network as a chaotic system,” he told Waldoch. “Chaos theory—it’s how brains work. Chaos is not disorder, and it’s not order; it’s somewhere right between.” An Angel ride, he went on, serves to “bring balance to the city, make it a more efficient organism, community, whatever you want to call it. In my view.”…

Read the whole story here.

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